Belgium : ‘Euthanasia’
Assisen trial of Lieve Thienpont only the tip of the Iceberg?
Some talk about a similar precedent with no consequences in 2006 with
Dr. Marc Cosyns
The disturbing evolution
about what has come to light with one more professional involved in unlawful
practices around euthanasia could be only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Looking
back on a precedent in 2006, worries about fair justice can be advanced. Some
argue that Ms. Lieve Thienpont could get away with unlawful assisted suicide baring
no consequences whatsoever. Four years after the first Belgian Euthanasia law,
there was a similar precedent dating back to 2006, with Dr. Marc Cosyns of the
University of Gent. Some say he unlawfully killed Suzanne Roegiest (87), who at
the time had dementia in an advanced stage and had no signed written statement.
Both actions were unlawful at the time, but no thorough investigation was done
and Dr Cosyns was never officially accused. The fear today exists that Lieve
Thienpont will also not bare any consequences for her actions.
In 2006 (just 4 years after the initial law was
voted) Dr. Marc Cosyns (he was the first physician ever to perform euthanasia
in Belgium). He is a proponent of total liberty for euthanasia, no strings
attached. He published an article in ‘De Huisarts’ (The Physician), which is
the leading bi-weekly magazine for Belgian physicians. In it he explained how
he had performed euthanasia on an elderly lady having dementia and who had no
written ‘declaration of will’. Both were at the time required to perform euthanasia
(technically it’s not even euthanasia but assisted suicide – which is forbidden
in Belgium). The reasoning why people with dementia are excluded from
euthanasia, is of course that the law stipulates that when receiving euthanasia,
one should be ‘in full conscience and able’ to make decisions, so as for
instance to always allow people to change their minds if they do not want
euthanasia in the end. So, some say, according to existing law Marc Cosyns
should have been guilty on 3 accounts: 1. Performing euthanasia on someone not
in full conscience and being able to make decisions. 2. Performing it without
even a previous written declaration of wanting euthanasia. 3. Having in fact
committed an act of assisted suicide.
Following this written ‘confession’ in ‘The
Physician’, the parliamentary commission had no other choice, than to refer Dr.
Cosyns to an investigative judge, who after hearing him, released him, and, after
a few months, having made no official accusations, closed the dossier. In the
hearing he actually defended himself by declaring that the lady had made an
oral statement to him and had asked for euthanasia – but who will tell?
The most interesting part of his article in
‘The Physician’ was probably his last sentence in which he explained, why he
performed what he called ‘euthanasia’. He said that he did it, because he did
not agree with the restrictions of the law as issued in 2002. So, lets follow
this reasoning: I have a cause and am convinced, that the law should be changed
accordingly. But then, I discover that many people do not share my interest in
this cause or are even against it, all I have to do is kill someone, to get
more attention to my cause and push it through. That, some say, is exactly what
Dr. Cosyns did: he killed that elderly, dementing lady, not even necessarily to
‘help’ her, but to further his ‘cause’, being to abolish all restraints to
perform euthanasia. And that, some say, is actually the real reason for his
This unpunished act actually opened a
pandora’s box. From that point on – no consequence to unlawfully performing
euthanasia – many people could from tehn on, transgress that same law. Since
then a completely new atmosphere around euthanasia has entered our country as
there are no more barriers. In some of our future reports we hope to bring some
examples of this. Ultimately it led to the situation with Lieve Thienpont, but
this migth only be the tip of the iceberg.
Dr Cosyns teaches ethics, deontology and
palliative care at the University of Gent. He also travels around giving
lectures about palliative care – in Belgium today, some say, we have come so
far that the term ‘palliative care’ is now used as a synonym for euthanasia. A
lady reported to us, that she went to one of his evening presentations about
palliative care. At the end it was possible to ask questions. The lady straightforwardly
asked him publicly, if he was the person who was questioned in 2006 about Suzanne
Roegiest,who was killed. He immediately flatly denied. After the
presentation she approached him once more and asked him straight-out, if he had
anything to do with it and again he denied any involvement.
Much is at stake and
many questions are open. How is the case with Lieve Thienpont going to proceed?
Will the connections with LEIF come to light. Will other members of the
lobby-group be indicted? Will it lead to an investigation into the workings of
the Parliamentary Commission on Euthanasia, that should have referred the case
to justice? The slippery slope is taking down Belgian ethics and morals at
dazzling velocity and thousands of lives are at stake. Those of the weakest
citizens in society.
Sources: Het Nieuwsblad, 9.2.2006; Het Belang van Limburg, 26.4.2006; De Morgen, 29.9.2006
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